Fans of chef Preeti Mistry will be excited to hear that her latest venture in Emeryville, Navi Kitchen, is opening this week for limited hours. Last Thursday, the café-restaurant announced on its Facebook page that it would open for “Brekkie service” starting on Wednesday April 26, from 8 a.m. to noon. Its morning offerings will include Highwire coffee, DIY Juhu Masala Chai, pastries from Starter Bakery, sweet and savory toasts, and two breakfast sandwiches.
Navi Kitchen is Mistry’s second restaurant in the East Bay; the former “Top Chef” contestant opened popular Indian street food restaurant Juhu Beach Club in Temescal in 2013, which recently won her a spot as a James Beard Award semifinalist in the category of Best Chef: West.
We spoke with Mistry on the phone on Monday. She said she was feeling a little overwhelmed, but excited about getting started with the breakfast service, that will run on Wednesdays through Sundays at first, a “staggered approach to help the staff get its sea legs.” She said that eventually, Navi Kitchen will be open Tuesdays through Sundays, and that by next week or the week after, the café will be open from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. for breakfast and lunch. “Hopefully by end of month,” Mistry said, “we’ll be open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.”
Both breakfast sandwiches will be served with a fried egg-over-easy on buns made by Starter Bakery. The Croque Gadame (a play on “madame,” but meant to be a slurred pronunciation of “goddamn”) promises to be the perfect marriage of sweet and savory, with a fried egg, brown sugar chai-spiced bacon, white cheddar cheese, pickled onions and tangy tamarind ketchup. Mistry said it’s a more compact version of the Croque Memsahib offered for brunch at Juhu Beach Club. The Mumbai Morning Burger features a fried egg, pork ginger sausage and American cheese, topped with pepper cress and ghost pepper chutney. Mistry calls it her “grown-up Indianified version” of the Egg McMuffin.
Also worth noting on Navi Kitchen’s Brekkie menu are the toast offerings, both of which will be vegan. The PB+C is smothered in a housemade curried peanut butter and topped with a fruit chutney. For its opening, the PB+C will feature a strawberry rhubarb chutney, but expect the chutney to change with the season. The Toasty Toast is Navi Kitchen’s answer to avocado toast, but its kicked-up version has cucumbers, pickled red onions and a spicy chaat masala.
Navi Kitchen is located in the former space of Basic Café at 5000 Adeline St., attached to the Bakery Lofts. Mistry, who lives nearby in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood, said that she found the space by accident, while on her way to look at another potential location. A wrong turn led her to the vacant space, which she noticed was for lease. She met with Madison Park, the management team that runs the Bakery Lofts, to talk about her vision for her take on an all-day casual counter-service café. Mistry said that she had the community’s needs in mind when planning Navi Kitchen’s hours and offerings.
“There are not a lot of places to get just about anything around here [to eat]. There are convenience stores, but you’re going up to San Pablo or up to Telegraph or Shattuck to grab a coffee, a juice, or a bite to eat,” she said.
Navi Kitchen will share some of the same staff with Juhu Beach Club, including Mistry, her chef du cuisine, and the operations manager, but Mistry said hiring new members locally was important to her. She posted listings for new staffers on the job community forum Localwise to encourage hiring from within the neighborhood. One of her new chefs happens to live across the street from Navi Kitchen.
The café will house seating for nine inside, but the outdoor patio area can accommodate up to 50 guests. The space inside was given a makeover by Mistry’s wife/business partner Ann Nadeau, who also outfitted Juhu Beach Club. Mistry said Navi Kitchen’s decor will have a similar feel to its sister restaurant, but will also feature social-justice artwork created by independent artists. An Indian-inspired graffiti-style mural by local artist Nisha Kaur Sethi was one of the first artworks created for Navi Kitchen.
When Navi Kitchen opens for all-day service, its menu will also include Indian spice and flavor-inflected Neapolitan-style pizza, curries, rotisserie chicken, mac and cheese, soft-serve ice cream and milkshakes. (Take a peek at the full menu, should you want to start planning your future meals.) The restaurant will serve cocktails, wine, and and a rotating list of seven draft beers from nearby Temescal Brewing. Diners will have the option of eating in or taking their food (and drink) to go. In fact, those who take their wine or beer to go will save $5 on wine bottles and $1 on beer cans. Mistry said that they will most likely work with a delivery service, like Caviar, to offer delivery in the future.
Stay tuned for more details about Navi Kitchen on Nosh.